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More questions than answers as England limp towards World Cup

Soccer Football – UEFA Nations League – Group C – Italy v England – San Siro, Milan, Italy – September 23, 2022 England manager Gareth Southgate shakes hands with Harry Kane following the match REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

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Sept 23 (Reuters) – World Cup semi-finalists in 2018, European Championship runners-up this past year, England were surfing a wave of optimism, however the wheels attended off spectacularly plus they now look not potential winners in Qatar.

Friday’s 1-0 defeat in Italy relegated them from the Nations League top tier following a campaign where they lost twice to Hungary – including 4-0 at Wembley – as soon as to Italy alongside two scrambled draws.

Their only goal in five games was a late Harry Kane penalty against Germany and they’ll hardly be filled with confidence for the return match in the home on Monday.

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Manager Gareth Southgate had a comparatively settled side through the Euros, when England posed threats from all around the pitch and were solid at the trunk.

Following this sorry run, however, you can find only a couple of players who is able to be confident of earning the starting 11 in Qatar and the coach now seems unsure of his best system.

His oft-quoted policy of picking on form shows to be hollow after he started Harry Maguire on Friday regardless of the centre back barely obtaining a game at Manchester United.

His chopped and changed midfield failed miserably to obtain hold of the overall game – despite Declan Rice’s faintly bizarre declare that England had controlled it.

Jude Bellingham, still only 19 despite all his experience for Borussia Dortmund, probably did just as much as one to enhance his World Cup prospects while Kane remains a world-class threat if he is able to stay fit and Reece James remains ever-reliable.

However, Raheem Sterling struggled for impact, as did Southgate’s undroppable favourite Bukayo Saka and ineffective substitute Jack Grealish.

OFF NIGHT

Even the ultra-reliable Kyle Walker had an off night, giving Giacomo Raspadori a significant amount of time and energy to pick his spot from just in the box and score the winner midway through the next half.

Following the shocking 4-0 defeat by Hungary in June the crowd fired up Southgate and there have been boos again from the visiting fans as he stood to applaud them on Friday.

Never a guy to obtain too overly enthusiastic by good or bad displays, he was surprisingly upbeat.

“For large elements of the overall game we played perfectly – plenty of good individual performances,” he said. “Personally, i thought the performance is really a step in the proper direction. I completely understand due to the result that that’s not going to function as reaction.”

Monday’s Wembley appointment with Germany, who lost 1-0 in the home to Hungary on Friday, is his last possiblity to rediscover the fizz that had the complete country behind him just a little over this past year, before embarking in November on the most recent try to end what’s now 56 years of hurt.

The good thing for him is that England have landed a comparatively soft World Cup group sufficient reason for the fixtures in the order he’d have wanted. They start against Iran, then face america before what’s apt to be a scrap, but one they ought to win, against Wales.

The class in the squad should prevail but, with a likely quarter-final ending up in France on the cards, there will have to be a radical uptick in form if England are to complement or improve on the 2018 set you back the final four.

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Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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